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Designing the New Kitchen Garden: An American Potager Handbook Hardcover – Illustrated, May 1, 2006
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“This lushly illustrated, 250-page hardback shows layouts for gardens planned to keep their visual appeal throughout the year, gardens that are virtually outdoor rooms.”
Top Customer Reviews
The chapter of historical background is almost worth the price of admission itself (if you're interested in history and the history of gardening) Although somewhat preciously phrased, the author does remind us of the connection of spirit, body, and garden, something we may forget when we in the middle of a vicious battle with cabbage loopers.
But the excursions into real gardens felt to me like a fantasy. If these gardens are meant to be inspiring, they failed with me. Every page I turned reminded me that these gardens are big, and clearly cost a lot of money to build and maintain. I never had a clear sense of the good eating that should be coming out of these gardens. And of course, nothing ever seems to go wrong in these gardens; there is no sense of how the gardeners have learned and evolved their gardens over time.
For a book ostensibly about "American" potager gardening, most of the country was omitted. Including midwest, southern, and western garden would have been a big help.
The design chapter starts off on the wrong foot by discussing a potager garden that was never built. Even worse, it was never built in a large urban space with which few of us will ever have to contend, so I fail to see the point. The second garden design discussed, designed for a small restaurant, also has not been built. The third garden is the author's own, now giving me the uncomfortable feeling that the entire book is a vanity project.
When the winter weather keeps you indoors, this will not a bad book to page through; just don't let it be the only book on your shelf about potager gardening.
What I mean here is that not only does the book give very serious guidance on how to build a potager garden, it gives oodles of historical perspective on how the potager garden design evolved from pre-Christian times, through the Middle Ages and Renaissance, with it's flowering in the monastary and royal gardens of France.
One thing to point out early in this review is that the book covers practically nothing about things culinary, in spite of the fact that various methods for categorizing this book put it cheek and jowl with books on culinary subjects, which is how I happened to run across it. But as long as I'm on the subject, its important to note that a good reference on gardening techniques must almost by definition have lots of interesting text and pictures for the armchair. While you can always cook, you cannot always garden, and in temperate climes, there will always be many months of down time. This book is the perfect antidote. In fact, as good as this book is, it is almost completely composed of material for thinking and planning and not about digging, laying stone, or planting. The `Designing' of the title must be taken very seriously. There are no recipes here for laying a gravel walk or laying out a herringbone brick path. Go to your Home Depot manuals and hardscaping texts for theses skills.Read more ›
The book stumbles a bit in assuming you already know elements of design, and doesn't discuss the practical considerations of some of them. The examples of "shade mapping" could use a little explanation alongside the drawings; I found them confusing. And there's very little discussion of what to plant when -- presumably you'll decide these on your own with various seed catalogs spread around you, if you can find catalogs that detail things such as plant height and habit, colors and seasons. I haven't found many vegetable seed catalogs that spend time on these sorts of topics, and I was hoping this book would provide some illumination.
Still, there are plenty of suggestions and examples for making your vegetable garden a place of beauty as well as a producer of foods and herbs for your kitchen. My personal leanings are toward the concept that a vegetable garden is beautiful if you can see the significant amount of food you'll be eating from it and so regular plots of densely packed plants are just fine; but I'm sure my spouse will enjoy the more formal look the veggies and herbs will take on in next year's garden as a result of this book.
Do you want a vegetable garden that people -- non-gardening people -- would actually want to walk through? Are you capable of designing a beautiful layout but need a nudge in the right directions? Then this is a good book for you. I'd have prefered more meat in it, so to speak, particularly for the $35 I spent on it.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Summary/TL:DR: I recommend it but have issues with the photos & inaccurate labeling of plants in the captions, corrections included in review. Read morePublished 3 months ago by E. A. Holcombe
A great read with amazing photographs and ideas for personalizing your garden.Published 10 months ago by swimchristianswim
Excellent ideas and plans for all kinds of locations, including a city version. I appreciated the author's inclusion of flowers along with her edible landscaping.Published 14 months ago by salud, amor y pesetas
It fits with my permaculture ideas. the information and diagrams about the monastic gardens was very interesting.Published 18 months ago by Susan L. Scheer
Not exactly what I was expecting but very thorough. Love the layouts and it all of the information that was put into the book.Published 24 months ago by Ginnyhem
An excellent resource to help plan an efficient, useful cook garden.Published on August 5, 2014 by Thomas L. Bigham
A Good book to have if you plan to plant a kitchen garden. Nice pictures and good suggestions. I enjoyed reading it.Published on March 19, 2013 by Laura Coen